Ask a manufacturer of food-waste disposers whether more innovation is possible in a product that generally has operated the same way for decades, and you’ll get a resounding “yes.” Ask a plumber the same question, and the answer might be more dubious.
“I think they’ve got it down to a pretty good science,” says Randy Arnold, who is the owner of Arnold & Sons Plumbing, Sewer & Drain. “I mean, could they tweak it? Yeah, absolutely. Everything can be tweaked.”
In years past, innovations made food-waste disposers grind faster and more quietly, and manufacturers tell Consumers Digest that they want to improve on those qualities.
Eric Schultz, who is a spokesperson for InSinkErator, says the company is conducting product development that, in addition to producing a food-waste disposer that grinds faster and more quietly than current models do, would give consumers a more “worry-free” disposer that would be capable of grinding more food waste more efficiently. However, like other manufacturers with which we spoke, he says it might be several years before such a product is available for purchase.
(InSinkErator models use an induction motor, which has variable grinding speeds to reduce jams and pulverize food waste and tops out at 1,725 rpm. Other manufacturers use permanent-magnet motors and go for sheer speed—a maximum of 3,500 rpm—to dispose of food waste. Consumers Digest found both methods to be effective at food-waste disposal.)
SWITCH UP. In 2014, the most significant change that you might find is that food-waste disposers now are a little more interchangeable. In December 2012, Anaheim Manufacturing, which makes Frigidaire and Waste King food-waste disposers, settled its antitrust lawsuit against Emerson Electric, which is InSinkErator’s parent company. As part of that settlement, InSinkErator’s once-proprietary three-bolt mount system now can be used by Frigidaire models, too.
Frigidaire used to make its own food-waste disposers, but Dave Coll, who is a company spokesperson, says Frigidaire contracted with Anaheim in 2012 to make its food-waste disposers. Coll says Frigidaire wanted to improve the grinding performance of its models, as well as increase the length of its warranties, and both goals provided Frigidaire with reasons to work with Anaheim.
Wes Grimm, who is a spokesperson for Anaheim, says the ability to use one mount for different disposers cuts down on the time that it takes to replace a food-waste disposer, regardless of whether you hire a plumber or do it yourself. Coll says using an existing mount allows you to change a disposer in 15–20 minutes, while putting in a new mount and a new disposer typically requires a plumber and takes about a half-hour.
However, Arnold says Frigidaire’s change to the InSinkErator mount makes little difference. A new food-waste disposer always comes with a new mount, he says, and a food-waste disposer always should be installed with all of its new pieces included. Fitting a new food-waste disposer into an old mount makes no sense, he says.
“It’d almost be like putting an old carburetor on a new Corvette,” Arnold says. “Will it fit? Yeah, but would you do it? No.”
Disposers’ Environmental Benefit Draws Doubt
Grimm agrees, and adds that even manufacturers would prefer that consumers install a new mount when they install a new food-waste disposer. The reason for providing consumers the option, he says, is simply so they can choose either to have plumbers do a quicker replacement or to do the replacement themselves.
Instead of making disposers more interchangeable or pushing the faster-and-quieter criteria further, four experts with whom we spoke say manufacturers should do a better job in educating the consumer about what types of food waste can be put into a disposer and how long that the disposer should run.
Although this type of information typically is included in product manuals, the experts say options, such as online instructional videos that are easy to access if manuals are discarded, should exist. For example, plumbers say garbage disposers should run anywhere from 10 seconds to 1 minute with cold water running through the appliance to ensure that all of the food waste is flushed properly through the home’s drainage system.